Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 5 – Section I – Command and Control

Section I – Command and Control

5-1.        C2 refers to the process of directing, coordinating, and controlling a unit to accomplish a mission. C2 implements the commander’s will in pursuit of the unit’s objective. The two components of C2 are the commander and the C2 system. At platoon level the C2 system consists of the personnel, information management, procedures, and equipment the platoon leader uses to carry out the operational process (plan, prepare, execute, and assess) within his platoon.


5-2.        Leadership means influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish a mission (Table 5-1). Leadership is the most vital component of C2.

        Table 5-1. Elements of leadership.



Influencing people to accomplish a mission by providing—


The reason to accomplish the mission.


The means to accomplish the mission.


The will to accomplish the mission.


5-3.        Mission command is the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based on mission orders for effective mission accomplishment. Successful mission command results from subordinate leaders at all echelons exercising disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to accomplish missions. It requires an environment of trust and mutual understanding.  Successful mission command rests on the following four elements.

– Commander’s Intent. The commander’s intent is a clear, concise statement of what the force must do and the conditions the force must meet to succeed with respect to the enemy, terrain, and desired end state.

– Subordinates’ Initiative. This is the assumption of responsibility for deciding and initiating independent actions when the concept of operations no longer applies or when an unanticipated opportunity leading to achieving the commander’s intent presents itself.

– Mission Orders. Mission orders are a technique for completing combat orders. They allow subordinates maximum freedom of planning and action in accomplishing missions. They leave the “how” of mission accomplishment to subordinates.

– Resource Allocation. Commanders allocate enough resources for subordinates to accomplish their missions. Resources include Soldiers, material, and information.

Mission Command

5-4.        Mission command concentrates on the objective of an operation, not on how to achieve it. It emphasizes timely decision-making. The platoon leader must understand the company commander’s intent and his clear responsibility to act within that intent to achieve the desired end state. With the company commander’s intent to provide unity of effort, mission command relies on decentralized execution and the platoon leader’s initiative.

5-5.        The company commander must create trust and mutual understanding between himself and his subordinates. This is more than just control. Commanders must encourage subordinates to exercise initiative. Mission command applies to all operations across the spectrum of conflict.

5-6.        Mission command counters the uncertainty of war by reducing the amount of certainty needed to act. Commanders guide unity of effort through the commander’s intent, mission orders, and the CCIR. Company commanders hold a “loose rein,” allowing platoon leaders freedom of action and requiring them to exercise subordinates’ initiative. Commanders make fewer decisions, but this allows them to focus on the most important ones. The command operates more on self-discipline than imposed discipline. Because mission command decentralizes decision-making authority and grants subordinates significant freedom of action, it demands more of commanders at all levels and requires rigorous training and education. If the platoon leader is new and has not reached the level of confidence or maturity of the commander, the commander may need to be more directive until the platoon leader is ready.

5-7.        Mission command tends to be decentralized, informal, and flexible. Orders and plans are as brief and simple as possible, relying on implicit communication—subordinates’ ability to coordinate and the human capacity to understand with minimal verbal information exchange. This can be a result of extended combat or training in which many actions and procedures have become standing operating procedure (SOP). By decentralizing decision-making authority, mission command increases tempo and improves the subordinates’ ability to act in fluid and disorderly situations. Moreover, relying on implicit communication makes mission command less vulnerable to disruption of communications than detailed command.

5-8.        Mission command is appropriate for operations in the often politically-charged atmosphere and complex conditions of stability operations. Company commanders must explain not only the tasks assigned and their immediate purpose, but also prescribe an atmosphere to achieve and maintain throughout the AO. They must explain what to achieve and communicate the rationale for military action throughout their commands. Doing this allows platoon leaders, squad leaders and their Soldiers to gain insight into what is expected of them, what constraints apply, and most important, why the mission is being undertaken.

5-9.        Detailed command is ill-suited to the conditions of stability operations. Commanders using its techniques try to provide guidance or direction for all conceivable contingencies, which is impossible in dynamic and complex environments. Under detailed command, subordinates must refer to their headquarters when they encounter situations not covered by the commander’s guidance. Doing this increases the time required for decisions and delays acting. In addition, success in interagency operations often requires unity of effort, even when there is not unity of command. In such an environment, detailed command is impossible. In contrast to the detailed instructions required by detailed command, mission command calls for a clear commander’s intent. This commander’s intent provides subordinates guidelines within which to obtain unity of effort with agencies not under military command. Subordinates then act within those guidelines to contribute to achieving the desired end state.


NOTE:  The platoon leader must understand the situation and commander’s intent one and two levels higher than his own. However, he must know the real-time battlefield situation in detail for his immediate higher level (company).

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